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Insights from Quaternary relations for sedimentation of the Great Basin by regional, transverse accommodation zones


, : Insights from Quaternary relations for sedimentation of the Great Basin by regional, transverse accommodation zones. Special Paper - Geological Society of America 323(Pages 229-239

The distribution of fault scarps on alluvium in recently updated compilations for Nevada and Utah supports our previous suggestion that northerly trending belts of Quaternary faults in the Great Basin are segmented by transverse accommodation zones that are regional in scale. Three west-northwest-trending accommodation zones traverse the Great Basin and mostly separate domains of east- or west-tilted mountain blocks. The accommodation zones are characterized by relatively low densities of Quaternary fault scarps. Maximum densities of Quaternary fault scarps follow generally north-south belts of range-front faulting and are confined to the west-northwest-trending domains bounded by the accommodation zones. This regional distribution of the density of Quaternary scarps is explained by a fault-rupture barrier model. Where Quaternary fault scarps have been mapped in the vicinity of intersections of fault belts with the accommodation zones, they are characterized by diffuse zones of short scarps having small surface offsets, typical of rupture termination into a fault barrier. In contrast, considerably larger surface offsets occur along the strike-contiguous zones of range-bounding normal faults. The low relative density of Quaternary fault scarps along the accommodation zones is consistent with the tendency for erosional obliteration of small scarps within rupture barriers. Intrabasin bedrock highs in the hanging-wall block of normal fault zones are common features of barrier expression along the accommodation zones, owing to the inhomogeneous strain along fault strike and decreased cumulative net tectonic throw from repeated rupture termination into the barrier. We suggest, therefore, that a transverse accommodation zone is not a singular structural feature in itself, but rather consists of a series of fault-rupture barriers aligned roughly parallel to the regional extension direction. The three transverse accommodation zones separate the Great Basin into four elongate east-west domains. In addition to high fault-scarp densities, closed basins are characteristic geomorphic features of the two medial domains. Depocenters of Quaternary sedimentation are confined to the domains between the accommodation zones, consistent with the interpretation that the accommodation zones are fault-rupture barriers. The closed-basin morphology appears to be related to the development of intrabasin bedrock highs in rupture barriers. These intrabasin bedrock highs serve to restrict drainage between basins and inhibit the development of an integrated drainage network in the western medial domains.

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